Moving towards Good Friday - 9: The Incarnation
- Dear friends,
Whether the Cross is to allay the wrath of God or to defeat Satan or both, no single incident in the life, death and resurrection of Christ can be isolated and pointed at as the one thing that saved mankind from the tyranny of satan. Each event, from His conception to His resurrection has its role. I understood the importance of each from `The Orthodox Way."
Virgin birth: As said in our Promeon/Sedoro , "Our Lord has an eternal Father in Heaven but no father on earth. He was begotten outside time from the Father without a mother (remember Jesus said-God is Spirit) and he was begotten within time from his mother without a (human) father" The result was the birth of a real human baby.
The uniqueness of the virgin birth is that:
1. `That Christ has no earthly father means that he points always beyond his situation in space and time to his heavenly and eternal origin.' (The sedoro Promeon at Christmans says a young girl fed a baby who was ancient)
2. `That Christ's mother was a virgin indicates that his birth is to be ascribed in a unique manner to the divine initiative.' (a direct work of God in the fullness of time)
3. `Christ's birth from a virgin underlines that the Incarnation did not involve the coming into being of a new person. When a child is born from two human parents in the usual fashion, a new person begins to exist. But the person of the Incarnate Christ is none other than the second person of the Trinity. So the virgin birth reflects Christ's eternal pre-existence.'
(Bishop Ware explains in detail the fallacy of the Immaculate Conception of Virgin Mary by St. Anne- the importance of the recognition of St Mary as the Theotokos etc. but this needs a separate post.)
Jesus: Man & God: Jesus is thus fully man and fully God. The Incarnation is an expression of God's love leading Him to identify with man and share in man's situation. Some of the Desert Fathers believe that this would have happened even without man's fall and that the Incarnation as an expression of God becoming man in a sharing relationship is a most joyful one.
To quote Bishop Ware, ` The Incarnation of Christ, --- effects more than a reversal of the fall, more than a restoration of man to the original state in Paradise. When God becomes man, this marks the beginning of an essentially new stage in the history of man, and not just the return to the past. The Incarnation raises man to a new level; the last state is higher than the first. Only in Jesus Christ do we see revealed the full possibilities of our human nature; until he is born, the true implications of our personhood are still hidden from us. Christ's birth, as St. Basil puts it, is " the birthday of the whole human race."
Christ is the first perfect man- perfect, that is to say, not just in a potential sense as Adam was in his innocence before the fall, but in the sense of the completely realized "likeness". The Incarnation then, is not simply a way of undoing the effects of original sin, but it is an essential stage upon man's journey from the divine image to the divine likeness. The true image and likeness of God is Christ Himself; and so, from the very first moment of man's creation in the image, the Incarnation of Christ was in someway already implied. The true reason for the Incarnation, then, lies not in man's sinfulness, but in his unfallen nature as being made in the divine image and capable of union with God'.
I understand that this in no way denies God's love for humanity-only affirms it. And the wonderful plan for creation. This, in my personal opinion, also somehow harmonizes with the theories about consciousness, which say that no man falls alone. The opposite is also true and since the Incarnation, the fact that a man in the image and likeness of God walked the earth, the highest is also available to humans.
I have quoted extensively from Bishop Kallistos Ware's 'The Orthodox Way.' I thank the Bishop and those who got me this wonderful book for helping me on my journey.
Susan Eapen, Thiruvananthapuram